Somaliland President Muse Bihi arrived in Washington DC on Sunday on his first official visit to the US.
Bihi was invited by Heritage Foundation, an American conservative think tank based in Washington, DC to give a keynote address.
Bihi, who leads a region that declared itself independent of Somalia 30 years ago but which is not globally recognised as independent, has attracted significant interest as to which of the US government officials he will meet.
According to Bashir Goth, the head of Somaliland Mission in USA, Bihi was warmly welcomed by US officials.
“In a ten-day visit, President Bihi’s first engagement is to deliver a keynote speech at The Heritage Foundation, between 11:00 and 11:45am (US Eastern Time) on Monday,” Goth told the media on Sunday.
Somaliland officials said the President is scheduled to meet officials of the Biden administration, members of congress, and civil society members during his stay in the country. They, however, did not clarify who he will meet.
“Talks will include ways of strengthening relations between the two countries (US and Somaliland),” the mission head stated.
In its information outlet, The Heritage Foundation said that President Bihi’s paper, titled “The greater promise of closer US and Somaliland ties”, will highlight the great potential that exists in stronger ties between the US and Somaliland.
The Heritage Foundation says that, over the last three decades, the self-declared Republic of Somaliland has built a still-consolidating but tenacious democracy while also serving as a bastion of relative stability in the tumultuous East Africa region that is increasingly resistant to US influence.
Somaliland was initially known as British Somaliland. At independence in 1960, the country merged with Italian Somaliland to form the Somali Republic. But as Siad Barre’s regime collapsed in early 1990s, the region declared independence from Somalia in 1991.
The matter remains unresolved to date and even the African Union referred the issue of Somaliland separation back to Somalis and Somalilanders to discuss.
But Dialogue between them has been occasional, with Mogadishu rejecting Hargeisa’s demands to separate.
Nonetheless, Somaliland has often run like a de facto state, having a Central Bank and currency, army and police as well as regular elections since 1991. Most embassies in Mogadishu also have consulates in Hargeisa.
Somaliland officials said that the President and his delegation had been allowed to travel to the US using Somaliland passports, whose recognition had also been limited, forcing Somalilanders to use Somali passports in the past.